Short Films: Don’t Plan To Fail!

What is the definition of a short film? There appears to be some differing views on what constitutes a short film. The American Academy defines it as any film that is forty minutes or less in length. Others, including the International Film School, say it is a movie between one and fifteen minutes in duration, yet another school of thought calls it any film over three minutes long. Indeed many of the major film festivals now include films shot on mobile phones in the short film making category.

With the ready availability of good digital cameras, and yes, even cell phones, it is not beyond anybody’s capability to make a short film. However, if you are considering embarking on such a project, you need to approach it in exactly the same way as if you were producing a remake of the Titanic.

Remember the old adage “if you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail”? So it is in film production, short long or epic. Check out the various websites where people upload their own masterpieces. You will be able to decide for yourself those that work and those that do not. This will help you in your own endeavours.

Start off by deciding on your subject matter, whether it is dramatic, funny, or informative; you are not making a home movie. Next, decide on your own preferred length and begin crafting your screenplay and story boards. Even if you are making a silent movie, you still need these crafts. Armed with them, you can then decide on your budget, if at all you need one.

The next step is casting. If you are using professional actors, it will make your job a lot easier. If amateur thespians, you will have to try to match their personalities to those of the characters, in order to save you a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted in bringing your characters to live through mis-matched thespians.

Do remember to obtain your actors to sign a release. Professional or amateur, even family and buddies, ought to be requested to accomplish one of these simple forms early enough, else it will be too late after the film is released or uploaded to the Internet. Similarly, if you intend to shoot on location, find out if you need permission to do so; you do not want to interrupt filming because you have not got the correct paperwork.

If you have a definite idea of what you want to achieve from your short film making, you will find it easier to achieve success. Very few film makers have the talent to improvise, and it can often end in chaos and, or bitter disappointment. Endeavour to first get the idea, and then work around it during the making of the screen play and shooting of the film.